One critical element of internet marketing is performing proper SEO on your website. When optimizing your website, there are many on-page and off-page elements that need to be attended to on in order to rank well in the major search engine result pages (SERP’s). Making things even more difficult is the fact that the three major search engines, Google, Yahoo, and MSN, each have a unique search algorithm which determines which websites will rank for a given keyword. One of the most prevalent errors in SEO is to optimize solely for Google and overlook the other major search engines. Google does currently have the largest market share in the search industry, but Yahoo and MSN combined have an approximate market share of 39% - a demographic that you do not want to overlook. Although the algorithms for each of these search engines are unique, there is overlap, albeit with different weighting, as to what factors the search engines consider important when determining ranking. When designing/optimizing your website, it is critical to keep these factors in mind. Below is a list of some of the factors that the search engines use when determining the rank of a website for a given keyword. First you need to ensure that your website is search engine friendly. Search engines cannot read flash or images. If you have these elements on your website, you need to ensure that you have written alt tags for all of them that are descriptive and contain the keyword(s) you wish to optimize for. This will start you on your way to ensuring that the search engines can successfully index the content on your website. Your website also needs to have unique Meta tags for every page. These Meta tags need to be unique to avoid duplicate content penalties that will hurt your website in the SERP’s. You should also keep in mind that these tags are what are displayed in the SERP’s. Therefore, you need to ensure that the copy is also human friendly, as it is counter productive to rank well in the search engines if no one clicks on your result – in the end which is more important, rankings or traffic? You can get both if you properly optimize for both people and search engines. The copy on your website is a critical factor in determining your search engine ranking. You need to have your targeted keywords sprinkled through out the copy on your website, making sure that you do not try to optimize each page for too many keywords. Be careful here though, you do not want to stuff your website with keywords, you will want to ensure that it is comprehendible to the people who visit your website. You can also get your website banned from the search engines if they determine that you are trying to game them by keyword stuffing. A site map is also really important element to have on your website. It lets the search engines know that you have deemed those pages in the site map as important and helps the search engines to crawl those pages more efficiently. Google and Yahoo now have a feature that allows you to submit a site map to them directly. You will also want to ensure that you implement proper 301 redirects to avoid any canonical issues with the search engines. The most time consuming part of SEO is inbound linking, this is also one of the most important things that you can do to help your website rank in the search engines and if done incorrectly, one of the ways you can hurt your SERP’s the quickest. You want to get quality inbound links from websites that are related to yours. You will also want to keep track of the anchor text that you use when doing the inbound linking – as this is one of the factors that the search engines use in their ranking algorithms. You need to ensure that you adhere to SEO linking best practices so that you do not get your website banned from the search engines – you must not engage in linking to areas that the search engines deem to be ‘bad neighborhoods’ and your inbound linking must appear to be natural and should not consist solely of reciprocal linking. If you have covered all of the above steps, you will have started your journey towards improved search engine rankings. For more information on Internet Marketing and Search Engine Optimization, contact Invoke Media.